Author: Lucy Brown, Social Media and Digital Marketing Officer

The publishing of this blog coincides with the 80th anniversary of D-Day. For those who don’t know, the term ‘D-Day’ technically refers to the day of a scheduled operation or campaign, where D-1 would be the day before, D+1 the day after, D+2 two days after and so on. The same applies for H-Hour, being the hour of the beginning of an operation. However, the legacy of D-Day of Operation Overlord, 6 June 1944, looms so large in our history that the term has become synonymous with that particular day and operation.

This article doesn’t consider the wider REME role on D-Day and the following months in north-west Europe; we’ll be covering more of this in articles on our blog in the coming months. This one explores how D-Day shaped the honours and awards received by many men in 1944-45. While some of these medals were awarded for actions taken far beyond D-Day and even subsequent operations, it was the landings in Normandy that enabled the Allied forces to make significant in-roads to taking back Europe from Nazi occupation and ultimately end the war in Europe.

France and Germany Star

The France and Germany Star was awarded for operational service (at least one day) in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands or Germany between 6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945. The colours of the ribbon represent the national colours of the United Kingdom, France and The Netherlands.

Four military medals, two star shaped and two round shaped medallions.

The medal set belonging to Craftsman P E Shipley, from left to right: 1939-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal and 1939-45 War Medal. 2002.4456.

Military Medal

The Military Medal (MM) was awarded to personnel of the British and Commonwealth forces, below commissioned rank, for bravery in battle on land. It is no longer awarded, having been discontinued and replaced by the Military Cross in 1993, now extended to all ranks. At the time, it ranked just below the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).

In 1946, Sergeant (Sgt) Owen John Griffin was awarded the MM for actions between June – August 1944. According to his citation:

“[Griffin] has been in command of a Churchill Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV) without a break since this battalion came to France in June 1944. He has been in every action fought and has displayed to the fullest extent the qualities of readiness to recover a tank from the nastiest of situations, and coolness and determination when under fire.

On 10 August 1944, Sgt Griffin was tasked to recover two tanks that had been blown up on mines near the railway at Frenouville. Whilst they were working, heavy shell fire came down directly upon them – Griffin remained with his tank the whole time. His “coolness and determination” were noted, and the two tanks were fit again for action the next day.

Five military medals attached to clear glass with background out of focus. Two star shaped, the rest round.

Sgt Griffin’s medal set including MM. 1995.3664.

Military Cross

The Military Cross (MC) is an operational gallantry award available to all ranks of the services in recognition of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land. Until 1993, the MC was only awarded to Commissioned and Warrant Officers.

One recipient of the MC is Lieutenant (T/Captain) Leonard Joseph Buckby, who was awarded the medal on account of his “outstanding service” after landing in Normandy on D-Day in command of a Beach Recovery Section. The award included action under fire from June up until the end of the NW Europe campaign. His citation stated:

“At all times he showed conspicuous devotion to duty, with a flair for being where difficulties were greatest. His leadership and example inspired his men and resulted in an unobstructed flow of tanks, guns and vehicles across the Rhine.

Five medals in a row attached to clear glass, background out of focus. One cross shaped, two star and two round.

Lieutenant Buckby’s medal group with MC on the far left. 2000.4328.

Distinguished Conduct Medal

The DCM was a decoration for 'distinguished, gallant and good conduct in the field' by non-commissioned ranks of the British Army and Commonwealth forces. At the time, it was the oldest British gallantry award and second only to the Victoria Cross, until it was replaced by the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross in 1993, which can be issued to any rank.

Serjeant Kenneth Francis Cardy was awarded the DCM for actions later into the campaign near Menslage. On 9 April 1945, a tank driving directly in front of Cardy was hit by two shells and burst into flames, wounding the whole crew. Under heavy fire, he ran to the tank single-handed to put out the flames “completely disregarding his own safety”. In doing so, it was able to be repaired and went back into service that same day. Later that evening, while under intense fire from the enemy, deliberately drove his ARV between two blazing houses in order to recover a tank. His recommendation noted that his devotion to duty saved two tanks in a time when the Battalion was extremely short of vehicles.

Seven military medals in a row attached to clear glass, background out of focus.

Example of a DCM on display (far left), awarded to Major S J Barton, 1995.3672. We do not currently have Cardy’s medals in our collection.

Croix de Guerre 1939-1945

The Croix de Guerre 1939-1945 was a version of the French military decoration created to honour people who fought with the Allies against the Axis forces at any time during World War II.

Lieutenant Colonel (Acting Colonel) Stanley William Joslin was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm in 1945 for his command in aid of the liberation of France. Joslin was CREME (Commander Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) Corps Troops on D-Day and later in 1944 assumed the position of DDME (Deputy Director of Mechanical Engineering) 30 Corps. The award recommendation stated that the Corps’ successful advance after breaking through the bridgehead in Normandy was due to the high standards of mechanical efficiency kept by Joslin through his “untiring efforts”.

By the end of his distinguished career, Joslin had reached the rank of Major General and was awarded several honours for his service including the CB, CBE and MBE.

Seven military medals in a row attached to clear glass, background out of focus. The bottom of two more medals are visible just above.

The medal set of Major General Joslin on display with Croix de Guerre on the far right. The bronze palm indicates that he was recommended at the Army level. 1983.2386.

Legion d-Honneur

An article such as this could not forego a mention of the Legion d-Honneur, France’s highest distinction awarded in recognition of both military and civilian merit. Ten years ago, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the French government announced it would be issued to British veterans. In recognition of their service in fighting for the liberation of France during the war, veterans who took part in the D-Day landings, the wider Battle for Normandy and ultimately the liberation of France are eligible.

A military medal with red ribbon and green and white five-pointed star/cross, attached to clear glass with background out of focus.

The Legion d’Honneur on display in the Museum. This one was awarded to Major G M Reeves. 1982.2322.

Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list of all medals awarded to REME soldiers as a result of service and actions taken on or after D-Day. There are also a number of unofficial commemorative medals that D-Day veterans may collect. Some collect these during the rite of passage of returning to Normandy, to see where they fought and visit the graves of fellow soldiers who fell in battle.

Published in The Craftsman, June 2024.

Find out more about REME units and their movements during the North-West Europe campaign of 1944-45 in our D-Day to VE Day Campaign. Follow along on Facebook or Twitter.